Are You Paying Too Much for Your ESP?

By Kath Pay

What’s holding your email marketing programme back from helping you achieve all of your marketing goals?

I’m not asking if something is keeping your programme from advancing. Even successful marketers run into roadblocks.

You might think the answer is to shop around for more advanced technology. But, you might end up paying too much for technology you can’t use.

In this post, I’ll show you how to find vendors that combine surprisingly advanced technology with a price tag that would please even the most penny-pinching CFO.

Marketers’ tech frustrations revealed

For many marketers, their email technology is their greatest frustration. Their email platform is out of date or hard to use. It’s clunky, or it won’t integrate with outside databases so they can’t produce top-quality automated messages.

These marketers want to do more with email than send one-size-fits-all promotional messages or basic transactional emails. But their limited technology won’t let them, and their small budgets put high-end vendors out of reach.

We discovered that going high-end isn’t always the answer. In a recent survey (the Email Vendor Satisfaction Report, we learned that other marketers who use all-in-one marketing suites can be just as frustrated as those struggling with antiquated systems.

Although 74% said they get their money’s worth from their email and marketing technology, only 49% of all marketers use more than half of the features that they pay for in their email platforms.

The solution: Smaller, more nimble email providers

Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen growth in small and mid-range email providers that have capitalized on both technological advances and the decreasing costs of that technology.

Not that long ago, free or lower-priced ESPs offered bare-bones services that didn’t
include data-driven dynamic content, personalisation, email testing or automated programmes.

Marketers had to add those services from third-party providers, and they didn’t always perform well due to limited integrations.

How times have changed! You can see that in this Email Vendor Selection review of email editors for responsive design, which itself was once an advanced feature available only to brands with big email tech budgets.

One of the ESPs that got the highest marks for its responsive email editor is Moosend, which offers a range of sophisticated features such as behavioural targeting based on web activity, to both free and paid users that just a few years ago would have been priced way beyond their means.

Beyond the features, many of these smaller vendors also distinguish themselves by offering personal customer service through phone, email and chat.

Mailchimp made a name for itself in the freemium email space when it added analytics and automation to its free email-hosting service, but it directs its free users to its knowledge base and Twitter feed for service and help.

Let strategy guide your choices

Choosing an email platform based on its features is like buying a car because of the options. Do you really need heated seats and remote start? Yes, if you live in a cold climate. No, if you live in the tropics.

A successful platform search always begins with strategy. What’s your objective for your email programme? What’s your strategy for achieving those objectives, and which tactics will help you get there?

All of the email features you want to use should support your business goals, like making more money, reducing expenses or serving customers better. If you allow tactics like new technology features to guide your strategic decision-making, you’ll choose the wrong email platform. That wastes time, money and opportunity.

Choose the vendor that fits your budget and goals

When your strategy determines your tactics, you’ll see which features you need to support them and what you need from an ESP.

That’s also what makes smaller ESPs like Moosend attractive to marketers who find they aren’t using all the features that they pay for on their current platforms.

Even though you don’t have a large budget, you can still create a vision to deliver a sophisticated email programme to your subscribers and customers. These small, independent vendors can help you to bring your strategy to life within your budget.

This clear decision-making path makes the vendor selection process less onerous. You can narrow your choices and focus on what’s essential for your business. You don’t have to go for the cheapest service, just the one that delivers the best value for your budget.

This clarity of vision can lead you to ESPs you might not have considered instead of the most high-profile brands. Use a service like Email Vendor Selection to sort through your options and narrow your search quickly.

4 tips for the best ESP review process

Use our checklist of steps to set up and conduct your vendor search for maximum productivity:

1. Audit your current ESP for missed opportunities.

What features does your platform offer now that you’re not using? You might not need a new ESP, just training on things like segmentation and automation that you never learned to use.

2. Know where you want to go and what you need to get there.

Besides revealing overlooked opportunities, your platform audit might highlight the things you need to do but can’t.

Set up a planning session to identify where you want your email programme to evolve, what you need internally to get there, like data you don’t collect or can’t access now and content you would need to create) and when you want to achieve these goals.

3. Create your strategy.

Our vendor satisfaction study revealed that only 45% of marketers have a definitive written strategy. But we were glad to see that 56% of strategic marketers let business needs, not new technology, guide their decisions.

charts taken from the Email Vendor Satisfaction Report on the use of Strategy with your ESP

Developing a cohesive strategy to govern business decisions will keep you from getting distracted by irrelevant or unproven developments, like “shiny toy” technology that doesn’t work out for you in the long run.

4. Invite vendors to present demos.

No, I didn’t forget. The demo is the last item on my list for a reason.

Most technology companies want you to do the demo first. This gives them more control of the conversation. But, if you go into a demo armed with your strategy, needs and budget, you’ll be better able to tell whether that ESP would meet your needs.

A final thought

Your ESP can be a significant partner in your email programme’s success or a major hindrance to growth. By mapping out what you need from your technology providers, you will be more likely to find the email platform that will become a strong business partner.

Over the past 10 years of consulting, we have assisted numerous known brands to select the right email marketing vendor, marketing automation vendor, or more recently, personalization technology vendor. Find out more →

Interested in finding out more? Check out how the awesome team at Holistic Email Marketing can help take your email programme to the next level.